Big Stick / Dateline Pucho & His Latin Soul Brothers


Latin Soul
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There are certain records that transport me back to an earlier time and place the instant I hear them. Pucho and the Latin Soul Brothers’ ‘Got Myself A Good Man’ is one. Just the opening notes on the Fender Rhodes piano have me back on the floor at Dingwalls, ecstatic as one of a few hundred people dancing to what to me sounds like the most amazing music in the world. In the acid jazz clubs of the early 90s that record was big, very big. It was of such a stature that Pucho reformed his group and has toured for the past twenty years off the back of it. The original album from which it was pulled has been in the BGP catalogue ever since. However some of Pucho’s catalogue has been unjustly overlooked, and we now hope to rectify the omission with this CD pairing and another one planned for later this year of “Saffron & Soul” and “Shuckin’ & Jivin’”

Born in Harlem in 1948, Henry Pucho Brown was taken to see the last of the big bands and the first of the rhythm and blues stars by his mother, but it was latin music that captured his heart. When he discovered Tito Puente he decided that he wanted to play the timbales. By the mid 50s he had graduated from local bands to a successful outfit led by Joe Panama. It was the height of the mambo craze and there was steady work in the ballrooms. When Panama’s band split up in 1960, Pucho formed his own group, but despite one single made for Epic in 1963, his group was small-time and many of the best musicians were poached by bigger groups such as Mongo Santamaria's. However Pucho’s mix of black and latin sounds became increasingly relevant with the advent of the new craze, latin-boogaloo, and Pucho and his newly renamed Latin Soul Brothers were signed to Prestige in 1966.

Their first three albums mixed jazz, soul and latin – the third album playing heavily on the latin soul side with the addition of a vocalist, Jackie Soul. Soul stayed with the group for his fourth Prestige album “Big Stick”. This mixes some great songs, such as the title track, with the big city soul of ‘No One Knows’, and some hypnotic latin jazz instrumentals – in particular the simply awesome ‘Swamp People’ with its distinctive clavinet parts by Neal Creque. It is the only LP that Pucho recorded without a horn section. 

The “Heat” album followed (available on a 2 on 1 BGP CD with “Jungle Fire”) featuring Al Pazant on flute and Eddie Pazant on trumpet (of the Pazant Brothers) who also play on Pucho’s penultimate Prestige album “Dateline”, included here. 

On “Dateline” the vocalist has been jettisoned and therefore this LP feels much more in the jazz bag. The title track could be the theme to a long lost spy movie, while ‘Yambo’ has a latin groove, with some great solos by both Pazants and special guest Barry Rogers (soon to become a member of the Fania All Stars). We hope this pairing of LPs will lead to a re-evaluation of Pucho’s later 60s recordings. 

By Dean Rudland


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